In late 2011, a man walked into a Target supermarket outside Minneapolis and demanded to see the manager. He was clutching coupons that had been sent to his daughter, and he was angry.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he shouted to the manager. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father had a different tone. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

Little did they know, just weeks ago, the girl was online searching for remedies for her abnormal mood swings, fatigue, nausea, and frequent urination. This information was picked up by Target and its various affiliate sites. Then the system compared the data against the traits of previous shoppers and determined that the girl must be pregnant. By design, the system concluded that it’s now a great time to expose her to the brands before she enters parenthood.

Mr Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and honored guests. This was but one examples of how marketing data is being used in today’s hyper connected world. Earlier this year, I was browsing online for a good bike for the summer. I looked up a few company websites and read several reviews. Within days, I noticed that my surfing experience became flooded with ads related to bikes and cycling accessories. Not only did I see ads from the companies I researched, but also products from a different cycling category such as helmets, locks, or water bottle. How did they know?

This phenomenon, ladies and gentlemen, is called retargetting. It’s a highly effective marketing tactic in the information age.

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that can help businesses to keep their brands in front of bounced traffic after they leave the website. For most websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Conversion means when a customer takes an action, such as sign up for a newsletter, or make a purchase. Retargeting is a tool designed to help companies reach the 98% of users who don’t convert right away.

So here’s how it works, as a business, you place a small, unobtrusive piece of code on your website. The code is unnoticeable to your site visitors and won’t affect your site’s performance. Every time a new visitor comes to your site, the code drops an anonymous browser cookie, which is a unique identifier. Later, when your cookied visitors browse the Web, the cookie will let your retargeting provider know when to serve ads, ensuring that your ads are served to only to people who have previously visited your site.

To run this model effectively, the retargetting provider must have sufficiently large coverage of the web itself. Any guess who’s the largest retargetting provider? It’s actually Facebook, with a market share of 43%, followed by the big daddy of online ads, Google, with a market share of 34%.

In recent years, I saw a surge of funds going into retargetting. Today, about one in five marketers has a dedicated budget for retargetting, on top of their traditional display ads, search engine ads, and other marketing campaigns.

I’m not surprised by this number because of how cost effective retargetting works. In a study that evaluated various strategies in terms of the average lift in search activity generated for an advertised brand, retargeting represented the highest lift in brand search behavior at 1,046 percent. Meaning that when retargetting is in play, it was able to attract ten times the traffic. If you are a business, this could potentially be a game changer in the way you do marketing.

Retargetting ad is getting noticed by the consumer as well. Nearly three out of five U.S. online buyers said they notice ads for products they looked up on other sites. Thirty percent of consumers have a positive or very positive reaction to retargeted ads, vs. 11 percent who feel negatively about them.

Now just having people to come to your website is only half the battle. As a marketer, we want people to take ACTION on our website, which can be a signup, a trial, or a purchase. Retargetting is able to reinforce the value proposition and make the offering more enticing on the second, third, or fourth visit. According to study by Web site visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70 percent more likely to convert on your Web site.

Technology gave marketer wings. With the aide of data, marketers can pin point specific needs before the customer even realize they have those desires. If you are a business owner, retargeting can be a fantastic way to gain brand exposure and additional revenue. If you are a customer, this is how businesses find out what you want on the internet.

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